WASHINGTON - The White House said Thursday President Barack Obama was still evaluating whether to travel to Asia this weekend, but hinted he was unlikely to go if the US government remains closed.
The budget impasse which has shuttered government departments and sent hundreds of thousands of federal workers home is leaving Obama torn between his political priorities at home and important foreign policy goals.
The president has already cancelled plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines at the back end of the trip and now must decide whether to go ahead and visit the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali and the East Asia summit in Brunei.
"We are evaluating the president's trip in light of the shutdown ... regularly and daily," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
But Carney also appeared to hint that it was unlikely Obama would head to Asia if the government shutdown is not resolved by the time of his scheduled departure on Saturday.
"If the speaker of the House allows a vote and allows the majority to speak, the government will reopen right away," Carney said.
"And obviously, that would affect the way we determine presidential travel."
There was no sign Thursday that a resolution to the dispute was imminent, with both sides in entrenched positions, so a sudden reopening of the government in a scenario mentioned by Carney seemed unlikely.
Political common sense would suggest that Obama would not give his domestic foes an opening and travel to the other side of the globe as a bitter political standoff endures at home.
Republicans would be sure to suggest that the president had been seduced by the prospect of striding the world stage while neglecting his duties at home.